I am back home now (just for a change) and I’ve been catching up on the latest news that has been generated in the name of Formula 1. The biggest story by far, indeed I would say that it should be front page on every newspaper in the world, is “Christian Horner expecting child”. It is odd that when I saw Christian in Suzuka there was no sign of a bump at all… If men can now have children, there is definitely a bit of medical history going on in F1 and the sport should jump on this and use it to promote higher attendances in countries where miracles are still believed. The other big stories attracting a lot of readers were about an Ecclestone breast-feeding (thankfully Bernie was not involved) and someone called Barbara Palvin, a Hungarian lass who seems to be well-suited to life as a bra model, who had been hanging out with Lewis Hamilton but is now partying further afield. There were the usual post-race “he-said-she-said” stuff, rehashed from press releases and a lot of tosh from the bottom-feeders about an FIA Steward allegedly inciting a Mercedes protest against Max Verstappen’s driving in Suzuka.
If one knows the procedures (which you can read in the regulations) you know that this story is complete hogwash. All investigations are announced by the FIA, none was. Thus stories of one steward being outvoted by the others lie somewhere between supposition and utter fantasy. I did look into the whole thing and it appears that the steward (Garry Connelly) met Paddy Lowe of Mercedes in the Paddock a couple of hours after the race was finished. Lowe seems to have expressed some frustration that Verstappen had not been penalised. Verstappen was spoken to by the stewards after the race, but in an unofficial manner. He then departed the track. Connelly seems to have told Lowe that if a team does not agree with a steward’s decision they have a right to protest (as long as the protest is made within a hour of the decision). The Provisional Race Result is deemed to be a stewards’ decision and it was decided by Mercedes Persons Unknown to embark on this process. When this was announced in the Media Centre there was a sense of disbelief because it was obvious that no hearing could take place because both of the drivers had already left. The hearing was announced for Austin, but then Mercedes withdrew the protest.
So what had happened? Inevitably, journalists began asking questions and a German publication, known for its close links with Mercedes top management, later ran the story about Connelly. Having looked into it, my conclusion is that this a case of a Chinese whisper passing from English to German and coming out rather differently than the discussion that actually took place. Telling someone that they have a right to protest is not at all the same as telling them to protest, but clearly this subtle distinction was, as they say in Japan, lost in translation.
Blaming the media is as popular in F1 circles as chasing foxes with horses and hounds used to be with the English landed classes in the 1920s, and just as daft. OK, I will not defend some of my colleagues on all occasions, because they can be well out of order and some of the scribblers have very active fantasy lives, but the majority of hard card holding F1 journalists are decent people who do a decent job. It is only when the ripples on the pond of modern media get away from the source that things get distorted. There was some discussion during the Suzuka weekend about whether or not Hamilton is having a bit of a meltdown with his behaviour with the media. This is a point worthy of consideration because it really was not wise to do what he did. One can sympathise a little as it must be hard to deal with some of the more extreme stuff that is written, but it is (unfortunately) a part of the game. If one has problems with individual journalists one can ask for explanations, but deciding to stop cooperating and playing with Snapchat during an FIA Press Conference and then walking out of a Mercedes one, were not the actions of someone who is being well-advised. “VIP’s feet not on ground” is not exactly an original storyline and hasn’t been since the days when Mary Poppins first took off under parasol power and had supercalifragilisticexpialidocious adventures. Lewis may well be having that much fun, but the basis of his fame and fortune is driving F1 cars and telling the world about his sponsors, and it is best to stick to what you know.
It is going to take some luck for Lewis to win the title now (and Lady Luck has been off canoodling elsewhere this year). Lewis can win all four races, but if Nico is there behind him in second place on all occasions, the mathematics are simple: 280 plus 100 = 380 ≠ 313 plus 72 = 385.